Final Reflections on WVU Dining Services Rotation

After spending 5 weeks rotating with WVU dining services, working with the dietitian and food service staff, I have a much more complete view of the role of a food service dietitian and a greater appreciation for the work they do.  Over the past five weeks I have been able to: work with food service administration to design staff in-services, wellness programs, and plan employee schedules; work with production staff in multiple dining facilities to learn about cash operations, assist with food preparation, design production schedules, and assist with catering events; conduct temperature, quality, and waste studies; assist with the farmer’s market and hold a student forum to promote local foods; design new meals and put together week-long menus, conduct recipe and cost analysis; and design and conduct a process improvement project on portion control.  In addition to food service activities, I have managed to attend and conduct nutrition counseling sessions, assess body composition, create meal plans, lead and assist with grocery store and dining hall tours, speak with athletic teams, and observe the interactions between the strength and condition staff, athletic coaches and the sports dietitian.  These past five weeks have been busy with a wide variety of activities to ensure that I walk away from this experience fully prepared to tackle the food service industry as a registered dietitian.

My favorite part of the rotation was the week I spent with the sports dietitian.  I had never imagined that I would end up liking sports nutrition as much as I did.  I found it fascinating and very enjoyable to work closely with student athletes.  This was also my first experience with outpatient nutrition counseling and I enjoyed that very much and was surprised how naturally it flowed.  I learned a great deal from the dietitian and listening to her converse with athletes and from her feedback on my counseling skills. (See my previous blog post about this section here!)

I learned so much from each of these activities and how the entire process works together to seamlessly serve thousands of students each day.  I learned the importance of knowing job descriptions in order to be able to contact the correct individual with concerns or consultations. In such a large institution it can seem overwhelming to determine who does what but after my time spent here I realize that that aspect just takes time.  I feel confident in my abilities and my understanding of the role of a dietitian in a food service organization and I can see the need to refill the open position with WVU Dining Services as soon as possible.

I find it very interesting when you think about how many different allergies and diets the staff must accommodate here at Café Evansdale.  This is definitely a skill I need to refine prior to working in a food service establishment.  It is difficult to know exactly which items contain some of the not-so-common allergens.  Part of learning this would come with time and dealing with this on a regular basis and becoming familiar with the food that is served.  I am thankful for having this opportunity to complete this rotation and have learned a tremendous amount of information that has helped me understand food service on a larger scale.

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Sports Nutrition with West Virginia University Athletics

This past week I had the privilege of working with the board certified sports dietitian for West Virginia University.  I never thought I would enjoy it nearly as much as I actually did!  I had the opportunity to test body composition, go over the results, conduct nutrition assessments and consultations, help athletes set goals, and even speak with entire teams regarding nutrition. 

Body composition testing and results was the justification for most of our appointments. It is extremely important for athletes to know where they stand and to determine if their body promotes optimal performance for their sport.  While BMI (Body Mass Index) is the most commonly talked about, it is almost never used with athletes.  BMI is really just an over simplified way to assess height and weight.  BMI should not be looked at on athletes because they typically have a large amount of muscle which weighs more than fat.  Instead of BMI, a body composition test will determine the amount of lean body mass (organs, bones, and muscle) and the amount of fat mass an individual has.  A healthy range for females is between 18-28% fat mass but it is not uncommon for athletes to get down below that.  As long as the female is performing well and still menstruating then she may get as low 10%.  Males have a healthy range from 10-20% but it is not uncommon for male athletes to get down to 5% before it is of a serious concern.  

Each sport has different dynamics and different demands.  For example, gymnastics and cross country athletes tend to be leaner where as football players will tend to be much larger.  The sports dietitian will meet with all the athletes at WVU individually to discuss their body composition and works closely with the strength and conditioning staff to help them reach their optimal performance.  In addition to completing individual consults, we completed dining hall tours, grocery store tours, spoke with all the wrestlers and gymnasts as a team, spent time in the weight room with the football players and spoke with the strength staff, and observed the menu planning meetings for traveling sports.  This rotation has greatly improved my confidence and interest in sports nutrition.